How to electroplate paper

  1. I am looking for a way to electroplate paper with out disintegrating the paper. Is there a conductive "paint" that I can use? And is there some way to preserve the paper?
  2. jcsd
  3. SteamKing

    SteamKing 10,954
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Supposing such a process could be developed, how would 'electroplating' paper be useful?
  4. Because it would be cool to be able to do it. I'm thinking of trying an art project, not something that normally interests me but it's a Monday and I'm bored.
  5. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    Perhaps using graphite will do. At least to some extent.

    However, I am not convinced whatever you deposit will be able to stick to paper. Even when electroplating metals we often have to do tricks (like electroplating with a thin layer of some other metal first) to be sure the final coating won't peel off.
  6. I think the most difficult part will be finding a way to keep the paper from dissolving away. Most of the time you have to use an acid when electroplating right?
  7. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    Not necessarily, there are recipes for baths that are basic or neutral. Doesn't mean you will be able to find one working with graphite.
  8. I guess I will just have to try and see what happens:)
  9. You are correct that your biggest issue will be the paper dissolving in your bath. It would be better to evaporate your metals onto the paper.
  10. how might I do that?
  11. Baluncore

    Baluncore 3,305
    Science Advisor

  12. That sounds pretty cool, but it might be a tad bit out of my budget to build such a device.
  13. Tried rubbing solder on paper, no use.
    Graphite works though.
    And you can use cotton paper (money paper), the kind that does not dissolve easily in water and a slightly basic solution.
  14. How did you apply the graphite?
  15. I applied it with a borrowed Rotring o.5mm pencil. For some reason pencils had gone out of fashion in my office.
  16. I dont know why but I thought it would be far more complicated then that.
  17. mheslep

    mheslep 3,404
    Gold Member

    I might be helpful in answering your question to find out fundamentally what paper is, what electroplating is, why it is possible to attach a charged substance to another. Paper is cellulose, a large organic molecule with atomic weight in the thousands, (C6H10O5)n. Cellulose is readily attached by adhesives to other materials which are commonly electroplated.
  18. Baluncore

    Baluncore 3,305
    Science Advisor

    Cellulose is a natural long chain polymer. Synthetic plastics are also long chain polymers.
    If you can electroplate plastics, then how much harder can it be to electroplate paper?

    1. This is a great general resource. The electrodeposition of copper onto circuit boards is described here. Electroplating/02.pdf

    2. “Electroplating Plastics”
    Then the question becomes, what chemicals are needed to sensitise cellulose?
    That answer will let you plate paper, wood and cotton. You could even make "electric string".

    3. This one is behind a paywall, but the abstract gives some information. “Electroless Plating of Iron onto Cellulose Fibers” describes depositing a ferromagnetic FeB coating onto Pd/Sn-catalyzed substrates.
  19. Well the paper didn't melt but the graphite didn't pick up any metal. Just to make sure that my set up was working I attached a an inch long piece of pencil lead and it is covered in copper. It's quite an irregular plating but it's working. Any idea why the paper didn't plate?
  20. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    First: paper won't melt, it can dissolve (actually it will be more like disintegration, I am not even sure how to name it).

    You can't be sure the graphite layer was continuous enough to conduct electricity. Have you tried to control the current? Was there any flowing?
  21. At the moment I don't have any of the normal tools to measure current and the like, but current was flowing. I know that because the LED I hooked up in one of the lead wires lit up. that's not much current but it is something.
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